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Distance matters: barriers to antenatal care and safe childbirth in a migrant population on the Thailand-Myanmar border from 2007 to 2015, a pregnancy cohort study.



Antenatal care and skilled childbirth services are important interventions to improve maternal health and lower the risk of poor pregnancy outcomes and mortality. A growing body of literature has shown that geographic distance to clinics can be a disincentive towards seeking care during pregnancy. On the Thailand-Myanmar border antenatal clinics serving migrant populations have found high rates of loss to follow-up of 17.4%, but decades of civil conflict have made the underlying factors difficult to investigate. Here we perform a comprehensive study examining the geographic, demographic, and health-related factors contributing to loss to follow-up.


Using patient records we conducted a spatial and epidemiological analysis looking for predictors of loss to follow-up and pregnancy outcomes between 2007 and 2015. We used multivariable negative binomial regressions to assess for associations between distance travelled to the clinic and birth outcomes (loss to follow-up, pregnancy complications, and time of first presentation for antenatal care.) RESULTS: We found distance travelled to clinic strongly predicts loss to follow-up, miscarriage, malaria infections in pregnancy, and presentation for antenatal care after the first trimester. People lost to follow-up travelled 50% farther than people who had a normal singleton childbirth (a ratio of distances (DR) 1.5; 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.4 - 1.5). People with pregnancies complicated by miscarriage travelled 20% farther than those who did not have miscarriages (DR: 1.2; CI 1.1-1.3), and those with Plasmodium falciparum malaria in pregnancy travelled 60% farther than those without P. falciparum (DR: 1.6; CI: 1.6 - 1.8). People who delayed antenatal care until the third trimester travelled 50% farther compared to people who attended in the first trimester (DR: 1.5; CI: 1.4 - 1.5).


This analysis provides the first evidence of the complex impact of geography on access to antenatal services and pregnancy outcomes in the rural, remote, and politically complex Thailand-Myanmar border region. These findings can be used to help guide evidence-based interventions to increase uptake of maternal healthcare both in the Thailand-Myanmar region and in other rural, remote, and politically complicated environments.

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